Our story today is
called "The Cask of Amontillado." It was written by Edgar Allan Poe.
Here is Larry West with the story.
Fortunato and I both were members of very old and important Italian families. We used to play together when we were children.
Fortunato was bigger, richer and more handsome than I was. And he enjoyed making me look like a fool. He hurt my feelings a thousand times during the years of my childhood. I never showed my anger, however. So, he thought we were good friends. But I promised myself that one day I would punish Fortunato for his insults to me.
Many years passed. Fortunato married a rich and beautiful woman who gave him sons. Deep in my heart I hated him, but I never said or did anything that showed him how I really felt. When I smiled at him, he thought it was because we were friends.
He did not know it was the thought of his death that made me smile.
Everyone in our town respected Fortunato. Some men were afraid of him because he was so rich and powerful. He had a weak spot, however. He thought he was an excellent judge of wine. I also was an expert on wine. I spent a lot of money buying rare and costly wines. I stored the wines in the dark rooms under my family's palace.
Our palace was one of the oldest buildings in the town. The Montresor family had lived in it for hundreds of years. We had buried our dead in the rooms under the palace. These tombs were quiet, dark places that no one but myself ever visited.
Late one evening during carnival season, I happened to meet Fortunato on the street. He was going home alone from a party. Fortunato was beautiful in his silk suit made of many colors: yellow, green, purple and red. On his head he wore an orange cap, covered with little silver bells. I could see he had been drinking too much wine. He threw his arms around me. He said he was glad to see me.
I said I was glad to see him, too because I had a little problem.
"What is it?" he asked, putting his large hand on my shoulder.
"My dear Fortunato," I said, "I'm afraid I have been very stupid. The man who sells me wine said he had a rare barrel of Amontillado wine. I believed him and I bought it from him. But now, I am not so sure that the wine is really Amontillado."
"What!" he said, "A cask of Amontillado at this time of year. An entire barrel? Impossible!"
"Yes, I was very stupid. I paid the wine man the full price he wanted without asking you to taste the wine first. But I couldn't find you and I was afraid he would sell the cask of Amontillado to someone else. So I bought it."
"A cask of Amontillado!" Fortunato repeated. "Where is it?"
I pretended I didn't hear his question. Instead I told him I was going to visit our friend Lucresi. "He will be able to tell me if the wine is really Amontillado," I said.
Fortunato laughed in my face. "Lucresi cannot tell Amontillado from vinegar."
I smiled to myself and said "But some people say that he is as good a judge of wine as you are."
Fortunato grabbed my arm. "Take me to it," he said. "I'll taste the Amontillado for you."
"But my friend," I protested, "it is late. The wine is in my wine cellar, underneath the palace. Those rooms are very damp and cold and the walls drip with water."
"I don't care," he said. "I am the only person who can tell you if your wine man has cheated you. Lucresi cannot!"
Fortunato turned, and still holding me by the arm, pulled me down the street to my home. The building was empty. My servants were enjoying carnival. I knew they would be gone all night.
I took two large candles, lit them and gave one to Fortunato. I started down the dark, twisting stairway with Fortunato close behind me. At the bottom of the stairs, the damp air wrapped itself around our bodies.
"Where are we?" Fortunato asked. "I thought you said the cask of Amontillado was in your wine cellar."
"It is," I said. "The wine cellar is just beyond these tombs where the dead of my family are kept. Surely, you are not afraid of walking through the tombs.